Sunday, January 31, 2010

Faith, Science and Orthodoxy

Here is a fascinating essay by Professor Menachem Kellner. His books Must a Jew Believe Anything? and Maimonides' Confrontation with Mysticism are also must-reads.

26 comments:

  1. OS still stands with Tropper on this one. Sorry, Rabbi Slifkin.

    http://blog.dovidgottlieb.com/2010/01/torah-sages-on-days-of-creation.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, I know. I'm planning a post on it. He's right that the mesorah from antiquity is that the world is 5770 years old. However, the mesorah from antiquity is also that the earth is stationary, the heavens are a dome, and the kidneys make decisions.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Eilu v'eilu. Most people are bothered by the science questions. More educated people are bothered by DH etc.

    With regard to the archeology project - I read one of the books in manuscript a few years back. It was appalling. I'm afraid that this project is not going to be convincing to people who are intellectually honest and have a good understanding of this topic.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Intellectually honest" in this context usually means one thing:
    Not being capable of suspending the (often pre-mature)judgment of human investigation for the authority of Jewish tradition.
    That is the essence of ALL conflicts of Modern Scholarship with Traditional Judaism.

    ReplyDelete
  6. So you'd go with the authority of Jewish tradition that the kidneys really do make decisions, spontaneous generation occurs, and the earth stands motionless?

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  9. For those interested in Kidneys and the Talmud...

    http://content.karger.com/ProdukteDB/produkte.asp?Aktion=ShowFulltext&ArtikelNr=63749&Ausgabe=227786&ProduktNr=223979

    and

    http://jasn.asnjournals.org/cgi/content/full/16/12/3464

    ReplyDelete
  10. Prof Kellner wrote: "To reject the claim that the earth is vastly old, for example, is not only to reject the science of geology, but the entire edifice of contemporary physics and chemistry."

    Has the professor (and the ball hablog) not studied any philosophy of science, since Thomas Kuhn's time?

    ReplyDelete
  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  12. For a comprehensive critique of Heifetz, see these articles on talkreason (fair warning: They are from an anti-Orthodox site)-
    http://www.talkreason.org/articles/fixing1.cfm
    http://www.talkreason.org/articles/fixing2.cfm

    For a more successful attempt see "Jewish History in Conflict: A Study of the Major Discrepancy Between Rabbinic and Conventional Chronology" by Mitchell First.

    See the following letter to the Hakirah Journal, by the aforementioned author, found here (pages 22-23):
    http://www.hakirah.org/Vol%204%20Letters.pdf

    To quote, "All of this suggests that what we have in Seder Olam is not a purposeful rearrangement of conventional chronology, but an erroneous chronology by R. Yose based on insufficient sources: the limited data provided in the Bible and insufficient other sources."

    ReplyDelete
  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Untenable hashkafically? Why would it be any different from any other aggadah?

    ReplyDelete
  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm having second thoughts about treating the teaching about the kidneys literally. When the Torah taught that one should "not follow his heart," is that to be taken literally? Why take literally the teaching about the kidneys, but not about the heart?

    ReplyDelete
  18. The verses about the heart were also speaking literally!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I'm not sure why we're treating R' Schwab's words as gospel. It is well known that Rav Schwab was heavily influenced by, and was attracted to, Eastern European Judaism, which generally speaking is less rationalist than Western European Judaism.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Have you seen the Sichas Chullin on this? IIRC, he brings contradictions to the pesukim from Zohar and elsewhere; he says that that the heart is the seat of spiritual feelings, and the mind, physical thought.

    ReplyDelete
  21. R. Kellner states that:
    "On God's existence, the creation of the cosmos, Sinaitic revelation, providence, prophecy, miracles, efficacy of prayer, the special relationship of God to the Jewish people, divine reward and punishment, etc., science seems to have little definite to say to us, and it appears to me, is not likely to have much to say in the foreseeable future."

    Science needs a falsifiable hypothesis in order to be able to function. What Kellner is saying is that many of Torah's hypotheses have been falsified. As they become falsified, we are to interpret these passages and thoughts as metaphorical. This is a practical and utilitarian approach.

    An important question of our times is: Since many of Torah's falsifiable claims HAVE been falsified, to what level should we depend on Torah's unfalsifiable claims [such as most of those listed in the above quotation].

    Or, for that matter, what's to be made of "historical" material that can be falsified through the discovery of valid "witnesses" [ancient documents, textual analysis, and so on].

    It seems to me that R. Kellner makes an unreasoned leap of faith in his assertions that one must not question the literal nature of the revelation of Torah and prophecy in order to live the observant life [as I interpret him doing in "Must A Jew Have To Believe Anything"].
    Sincerely,
    Gary Goldwater

    ReplyDelete

  22. R. Kellner states that:


    I tend to doubt that Professor Kellner would be pleased to be referred to as "Rabbi" (which is what I assume the R. stands for), even if he does have smicha. I could be wrong, but that is my feeling as someone who knows him personally.

    ReplyDelete

  23. Be that as it may, it seems to be a question for the presentation of the Kuzari principle, which says that history can't be hidden


    I thought the principle was the opposite, that a fictional event which should have been very public cannot be invented.

    ReplyDelete
  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Why did Rabbi Schwab change his position re Seder Olam and the "missing" 150 years. He originally gave reasons for the missing time such as it was left out on purpose to confuse the interpretation of Daniel

    ReplyDelete
  26. Shlomo,

    IIRC, Rabbi Schwab withdrew his position after he saw how much it was rejected as beyond the pale by others.

    ReplyDelete

Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.